Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Raise a Glass of Cognac to the Scholar and Gentleman

My grades were posted, one by one.   First came a resounding A +. in Advanced Drawing, which was a good start.  Next, an A in Art History: Renaissance to Present.  I layeth the smack-down on the final, it lay whimpering in the corner.  The topic for the essay portion I selected from the list of possibilities: Art and Religion.  Oh man.  I wrote so fast and furiously I inflamed an impressive writer's cramp.  I turned in my neat blue exam booklet shaking my aching writing hand while the Prof laughed.  I'll bet laughter was scarce while he waded through my 50,000 word manifesto re: the artist's role in documenting the vox spiritu of civilization.

The third Ace in my hand was dealt by my painting professor, the one who assigned thirty-odd paintings in one semester.  The final painting, a four-foot by forty-inch composition rendered on a canvas stretched on a frame we built ourselves in the campus wood shop, you may see here.

A week passed before we took the dreaded Italian final exam.  I studied all week,  I admit I struggled with this class.  It moved at breakneck speed and my brain, calcified by age, stubbornly refused to absorb the lingo at the blistering pace, especially at 9 AM.  My performance on the tests has been shaky.  I took the two-hour final, not certain about any of it.  I had some time left, so went back and checked my answers.  I found mistakes, corrected them.  But were they mistakes?  I changed them back,  then changed them again.  Then back,  Aggh.  I remained trapped in this paranoid cycle until time ran out and I had to turn in my paper, not sure if any of it was correct or if my answers had deteriorated into the ramblings of a lunatic.

On the bus back to my car my brain whispered that I had made numerous errors, and correct answers danced in front of my eyes in the manner of genii conjured from a bottle.  I arrived home convinced I'd failed the exam, and by extension the entire course, and would have to retake it in Summer school.  In fact, I had set in motion plans to do this very thing before taking second semester Italian as my mastery of the preliminaries was so shaky.

By Sunday my conviction of dismal failure was rock-solid.  We were supposed to have our grade by Monday, so I checked online every hour.  By 6PM there was no word, and I had sunk into the blackest pit of despondency.  I slunk to bed at 10PM, no news of my fate forthcoming.  Summer school started the next day, and I figured I would simply start all over in the fall.

This morning, Tuesday, I checked online and couldn't believe my eyes.  Through some sinister witchcraft, I made a B in Italian. That's correct--a B.  I would have been happy with a D, the lowest passing grade.  A C would have launched me into an ecstasy rivaling St. Teresa's.  But a B?  My mind couldn't cognize this miracle.  Had I been at the local park, gnawing on a tuna sandwich, and happened to see Jesus tip-toeing across the duckpond with a glowing halo playing about his brow surrounded by a swarm of cherubim holding the hem of his robe above the festering pondscum, I wouldn't have been more disbelieving of what my eyes reported.  Nodding, I logged off, prepared coffee, drank it slowly, not quite convinced, because I'm sometimes given to hallucinations.  Once I saw Freud and Einstein sitting next to me passing a bottle of schnapps while exchanging anecdotes about amusing times in Thompkinsville, KY.  But I digress.  After allowing plenty of time for caffeine to work its magic on my neurons, I checked my grades again.  The B stood proud and tumescent amongst the As. It was real.  I had not only passed Italian, but did so with a modicum of dignity.

My new plan is to solidify my basic Italian and get a running start of the intermediate material before second semester.  I also intend to keep my workload in check so I'll have time to play my piano.  I really missed it.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Finals Week

It's Finals Week, and the Men's Room on the third floor of the Fine Arts building smells of oil paint and desperation.  On campus, wild-eyed, disheveled students stagger about mumbling to themselves, attempting to retain the tiniest morsels of information within traitorous cranial sieves.

At the beginning of the semester there were twenty-four students in my Italian class. By the end, eight remained. It was like some weird survival game. I kept looking for hidden cameras. I had a perfect attendance record, even though one week I had a gruesome flu that wracked my frame like Torquemada's henchmen. I was afraid to miss a single class. Some of the younger contestants were missing three or four classes a month. If you missed a class, you fell so far behind the attrition rate comes as no surprise. The pace was so furious I thought at one point the teacher had to be kidding. This course was the intellectual equivalent of a Chuck Yeager stress-test. Material appeared on the exams we didn't cover in class, and indeed we wouldn't absorb until the following week. We were asked to conjugate verbs and complete sentences containing words and phrases we hadn't yet learned. Since this was my first semester, I can't say whether or not this is typical, or if we had fallen behind the scheduled curriculum. We covered 225 pages of the textbook this semester, as well as auxiliary material. I've been studying for the final coming up Friday, filling in gaps I may have missed on this whirlwind ride.

In piano news, I had little time to practice, but attended my lessons, which I bumped to every two weeks due to my hectic school schedule. The Painting class topped out at thirty-two paintings, an incredible amount of artwork, and my Drawing class had around a dozen assignments, which was a bit more reasonable.  One of these was an "Installation," which means you make a three-dimensional creation and then go vandalize the community by installing it in a public place. I created a statement--a mutant infant with tentacles growing from his face, crawling from a trashcan-- about how industries pour mutagenetic chemicals in drinking water and put it outside the Kelly Business school.

I have three finals out of the way and the last one is Friday.  I began learning a new piece, or rather began work on a piece I dropped about a year ago: "Over the Rainbow," and I just about have it down cold.  I also have on the table an arrangement of Gorden Lightfoot's "If You Could Read My Mind." I found a clip of some dude playing it, and I downloaded the sheets for it:

I intend to raise a glass of fine Cognac Friday after the Italian final, and enjoy the weekend.  Summer semester begins May 8th.  I'm curious to compare second semester Italian to this first introduction. I hope second gear has a slower pace. Ciao, Ragazzi.